Minister Jim Daly to leave politics to spend more time with family

As a west Cork TD ‘it was becoming very difficult for me to spend time with my family’

Jim Daly: I cannot continue in public life spending three or four days in Dublin each week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/THE IRISH TIMES

Jim Daly: I cannot continue in public life spending three or four days in Dublin each week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/THE IRISH TIMES


Cork South West deputy and Minister of State Jim Daly said he was retiring from politics because he could no longer juggle the demands of the role with family life.

Mr Daly also said the decision was one of the most difficult he had faced.

“It has torn me apart. I have been wrestling with the decision for months. In the end it was a personal decision, I just need to spend more time with my family.”

Mr Daly has been a TD since 2011 and was appointed Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in June 2017.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Friday, Mr Daly said his decision had nothing to do with the increasing volatility of politics, or with social media, which some politicians see as being increasingly intrusive.

“In truth it had nothing to do with that. I am from west Cork and have five children, aged between six and sixteen, and it just was becoming very difficult for me to spend any time with my family,” he said.

“I have the height of admiration for my colleagues Joe McHugh, Michael Creed and Simon Coveney. Like me, they have young families and are in constituencies a long way from Dublin. I have done that and I have just decided it is not for me anymore.”

Mr Daly is a former school principal and he also owned a pub and a restaurant. He was first elected as a councillor in 2004 and then to the Dáil in 2011. He retained his seat in the 2016 election.

Unusually for a Munster-based TD, he identified early as a Leo Varadkar supporter, rather than Simon Coveney.

He was one of the most prominent critics of Enda Kenny’s leadership during the final year of the former taoiseach’s tenure.

As Minister for State, Mr Daly was given one of the more difficult assignments. He has had a mixed record in mental health where he found it difficult to make inroads into the long waiting lists for child and adult mental health services.

Mr Daly (47) said his proudest achievement was establishing a online service for mental health services, which people could use to access services without having to go through an appointment process.

In terms of older people, Mr Daly said he was proudest of moving services for elderly people away from nursing homes to small retirement villages, following the template of Kilmaley in Co Clare.

That has now become a policy with an implementation strategy.

Talking about his experience to RTÉ earlier on Friday, Mr Daly said he enjoyed politics and loved the challenge but he would not be able to sustain it.

He said the demands placed on the time of a TD based on the west coast were endless, although he accepted the salary was good.

“I don’t mind doing five days in Dublin. When you go back to west Cork, that’s a four or five hour journey.”

“[AND THEN] there are several phone calls waiting, a number of events, a funeral or two; a lot of demands.”

Mr Daly said he had been wrestling with the decision for more than six months.

“I have enjoyed politics. Its a challenge and I cannot do it into the future. “I took the summer to reflect. The more I thought about it the more it seemed the right thing to do,”

Asked about his future plans, he said he none yet. He would not return to teaching but said he would thinkg over it in the months between now and the general election. He is expected to stay on as Minister until the end of this Dáil term.

The retirement of Mr Daly has implications for Fine Gael in Cork South West where he is the party’s only TD in a three-seat constituency but the party had targeted it as a constituency where it could potential gain a seat.

The party got 32 per cent of the first preferences in Cork South West in the last general election.

Senator Tim Lombard has already been chosen as a candidate but Fine Gael will now need to find a second candidate.

One possibly is former TD Noel Harrington. However, he was unsuccessful when standing in the recent local elections. That may militate against his chances.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Daly was “pressing on with plans to make the Fair Deal scheme fairer for farmers and business people, and a new transformative statutory scheme for home care”.